Monday, October 05, 2009

Five lands

I was very excited to get to Cinque Terre, a clutch of villages clinging like barnacles to rocky slopes above the Mediterranean. Not only have I wanted for many years to go, but hiking six kilometres of precipitous footpaths between coastal Italian villages was a complete change from driving highways for three weeks between inland Portuguese cathedrals. Exactly as prescribed by the proverbial practitioner.

From Pisa it is very easy to get to Riomaggiore, taking under two hours on the train, including wait time changing at La Spezia. I then walked as far as Vernazza, only reaching quattro of the cinque townships as I ran out of light by 7PM and decided to abandon Monterosso. The walk is renowned for its prettiness: the path strings along cliffs between clusters of orange, green, pink and yellow buildings, with turquoise waters and beaches of ocean-rounded stones below.  There is the crash of the breaking surf and, as if a distant shower of fireworks, the cracking, crumbling sound of the tide rolling the stones like racking billiard balls.

In Corniglia I ate a pasta specific to the region (I bet every region in Italy has a unique shape of pasta), the name of which I can't recall, in pesto made with local basil, a specialty here. Simple and delicious. Italian food is all about quality and simplicity, and what a delight it is after weeks of Portuguese meat.

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